The past 2 days have been spent on the southern-most parts of Thailand. A mere one kilometre from Malaysia, to be exact. The lot of us were split into three groups to explore different parts and communities. My group has been visiting villages in a district; its name I can't spell (and can't be arsed to check now 'cos I'm toooo tired.)
We're supposed to write a report about the demographics/statistics, occupations, issues and conflicts, causes of conflicts and recommendations for our assigned areas. This has been extremely difficult. There's a military presence here you wouldn't believe. Checkpoints every kilometre, soldiers following us around with their M16s, an army official present on every occasion we meet with locals from the village.
Following our van closely.
Due to this, we think, the locals and village heads are too intimated to say anything. So all we get is, it's fine, it's peaceful, there's nowhere better to live. Which means we have to deduce the conflicts and issues they have, which is a risky thing to do. There's also a language barrier. As it's so near to Malaysia here everyone speaks Malay, more so than in Pattani. Today I actually had to be a translator for our guide in a nature reserve. God knows if I was remotely accurate. Fortunately it was about plants and things, nothing about conflicts. The world will go on if I said something wrong about a flower.
Checked into a hotel last night and went on a random adventure for some karaoke. One of the local girl's brother came to pick her up and three of us hopped in, not sure where we were headed. But it was very safe and ended up being lots of fun. Except for the part where My Heart Will Go On was sung and I very nearly died. I compensated by singing Can't Buy Me Love after.
Min (South Korea) and I at Karaoke.
Today a few of us crossed the Thai-Malaysia border.
(With a Singapore football shirt and all! Technically, I'm on the wrong side of the picture.)
In a rickety old sampan which was filled with water. With my laptop, ipod and phone with me, it was the longest (and most carefully balanced) 10 metres of my life. We had to climb through a fence once we reached Malaysia and the group was amused because I announced that it just kept getting better. It really did.
We were stopped by some Malaysian soldiers, but ended up sitting on their hammocks and sharing their Coke and fruit.
Manda (from Indonesia) and I were the only ones with passports so we ventured to the proper entrance and made it through, slightly afraid as both our countries are not so BFF with Malaysia at the moment. Our passports didn't even get stamped, just our names and passport numbers were recorded. We just wandered around Kota Bahru for awhile, amidst stares from passers-by who must've been wondering where we came from and where we were going. We didn't really know either.
Realised that as I was in/very near to M'sia, I could use my Singtel line and it worked! Oh Malaysia, I briefly loved you and your My Maxis. Called mum straight away and texted dad and Nowell to assure them all of my safety. =)
Later we all went to a waterfall and of course I lept right in, it was disgustingly hot. Came back to Pattani, 4 hours in the van, and surprised myself by bothering to do my laundry. Although I must say the way I wash clothes would make any mother cringe. As long as it smells good it's okay. When on the road, however, as long as it doesn't smell, it's okay.
Today at one of the villages I was chatting with the locals in Malay (Cikgu Rathia is doing a joget in heaven.) and I noticed that they kept chasing stray dogs away - by throwing stones at them. This upset me to no end. The 3rd time it happened, and I know this was a foolish thing to do, I said to the stone-throwing army commander, STOP doing that. He just looked. I suppose he didn't understand me but someone might have explained later.
Others kept doing it so I went to play with the dogs. They were filthy and diseased but a million dollars couldn't have made me care at this point. How animals react to humans is a very accurate indication of how they're treated. I reached out to pat the dog and he whimpered, cowering in fear. My heart just about broke. After some coaxing we became best friends and he followed me everywhere; soon the other dogs came along too. The stoners looked in amazement, and asked why I was playing with them. They're my friends, I said (in Malay), and they smiled. I hope that helps the doggies in some way.
Tomorrow's a free day, can't wait. We might head to the beach which is about an hour away. And also get my phone up and running, finally.
I've lost track of the days which hasn't happened in a while. I thought today was Wednesday. Oh and the other day when I was bored, I revised a quote I posted earlier. Here's my version:
The peace I seek I cannot find,
The road, the sky, the stars, the sea;
They constantly seduce my mind,
This wanderlust won't let me be!